The sporting outrage of the weekend, at least in a vocal corner of the internet, revolved around videos popping up from the “Bruins lost the Cup” party, to use Barstool’s words. (Someone else may have broken them, but Barstool’s as good a guess as any.) Tuukka Rask’s leading cheers from the DJ stand, Brad Marchand’s shirtless on a stage … you see where this is going, even if you don’t specifically remember we did this same thing seven years ago when the Patriots partied after losing to the Giants.
“They don’t care!”
“We paid thousands for tickets, and they’re partying?!”
“I haven’t smiled in three days and there out doing this?” (That one’s a quote.)
I get it. We care, a lot. Sports are identity here; they were before all the teams started winning, and success only makes that grow. I remember watching the Red Sox get knocked out of the 1998 Division Series against Cleveland in the Pete Schourek game, then sitting in my darkened dorm room like a psychotic, watching the Goodyear blimp slowly depart to the west out my window. Had someone produced a video of Tom Gordon disco bowling in the old candlepin lanes that used to be under Fenway later that night, I would have been livid.
Here’s the thing, though: We aren’t them. The games are entertainment to us, even at our most fanatical and diehard. They’re the jobs of the players. The lives. Brad Marchand ain’t digging ditches for a living … he’d be the first to tell you that, I suspect. The sacrifice to be a pro athlete, though? The work? The genuine pain? It’s a whole other universe we don’t understand, and trying to view it through the lens of our lives (and a sliver of theirs) is a fool’s errand.
They care. They go through hell in the best of circumstances, which these playoffs for the Bruins certainly weren’t. They care more about their legacies, their victories, than you could ever imagine. It’s not a respite from the drudgery of life for them. It is life for them. They care.
And if you just want to yell about how great they have it, stop and think about Marco Hernandez for a minute.
Marco picked a great time to hit his first home run of the season! pic.twitter.com/uYf6DeySlE
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) June 16, 2019
Across three days in Baltimore, the Red Sox scored nine runs in 12 batters, four runs in eight batters, and six runs in 12 batters. They did exactly what I surmised they’d probably do, which would be more notable if it wasn’t what any rational human would surmise they’d probably do. (Boston has won 18 of its last 20 at Camden Yards, a stretch in which the Orioles are 114-228 overall.)
The Sox are 39-34 and will carry a five-game winning streak into Minnesota, the best team in baseball at 47-23, and a pretty good chance to quiet those of us who’ve noticed they’re 1-7-2 in series against teams currently better than .500. (To be fair, it was two before Oakland’s dropped to .500 on Sunday.)
“There’s a good vibe. We’re in the middle of the season. We didn’t come out of the blocks the way we wanted, but it’s still a long race and we’re still in the hunt,” Alex Cora said on Sunday. “We have to get better as a team.”
They had 42 hits in the series and six homers just on Friday, so to single one out is at least a tad silly. But Marco Hernandez’s shot to tie Sunday’s game in the ninth not only saved a gut-wrenching loss (given how much emphasis Cora has placed on the team reaching five better than .500) following blown save No. 12, it was his first home run in more than three years.
Which will happen when you don’t play a major-league game for more than two.
“Red Sox third baseman Marco Hernandez is helped off the field after his left shoulder popped out while he was reaching for a ground ball in the first inning,” read the photo caption in the Globe on May 4, 2017. (It didn’t mention the same shoulder had slipped out of joint the previous spring.) Hernandez grimaced, hand in his armpit, flanked by Dustin Pedroia on one side and John Farrell on the other.
He’d hit .276 but made six errors in 21 games that season, forced full-time into the lineup at third when Pablo Sandoval went down. The No. 6 prospect in the organization when the year began had caught Farrell’s eye, who noted his “at-bats have been overall aggressive … He’s played with a lot of athleticism and energy. So he’s a good fit to be able to play in multiple positions.”
That was soon ancient history. The MRI came mid-month and the first surgery to “stabilize the socket against further separations” came May 26. The hope was he’d be ready for the 2018 season (as the primary fill-in while Pedroia recovered). Instead, in mid-February, he admitted it still bothered him when swinging a bat on consecutive days.
The second surgery came Feb. 22, 2018, to deal with the discomfort from the heavy metal in his shoulder from the first surgery. Initially, he was out for spring training. Though he got on the field in April, it was just for the Joe Kelly brawl against the Yankees.
The third surgery came July 10, 2018, after the second surgery left him unable to swing a bat. Four days after it, he told MassLive.com in a lengthy piece last week, the pain was nearly gone and the shoulder was stable.
Then came the work, which the MassLive piece lays out in full.
“In spring training, I used to get there at 5:30, 5:45 (a.m.), and he was there already, working on his craft and doing everything,” Cora said.
“They asked me many times [in the minors], ‘You need a day off?’” Hernandez told MassLive. “I said, ‘No. I’ve been having days off the past 18 months. I just need to play.’”
Twenty-one games in High-A, 21 games in Pawtucket, and Hernandez was back with the Red Sox for the June 8 doubleheader with the Rays. He opened 5 for 11 with three doubles, but was in an 0-for-12 skid when he came up with one out on Sunday against Baltimore closer Mychal Givens, the same guy he’d homered off 1,100-odd days before.
“My first one was here,” he told reporters, “so why not the second one?”
It was a big hit, but will quickly be forgotten if anything big happens against the Twins, who lead the AL in most major offensive categories and have three hot pitchers lined up to oppose Rick Porcello, David Price, and Eduardo Rodriguez. (The Sox miss Cy Young candidate Jake Odorizzi, who went Saturday.) It’ll also be forgotten, though, if Hernandez can stay healthy and become a contributor on a team that appears to have an opening at second base in the near future.
“Not everybody can come back and play from three shoulder surgeries,” he told MassLive. “I mean, you can play with pain sometimes. And not everybody’s 100 percent every day. But the work I put in, I think it paid off.”
He earned the chance to celebrate a bit on Sunday. I think we can all agree on that.